I feel like coming back from our summer vacation always leaves me feeling fresher and gives me new perspective. Our first few days back last week were full of tidying and cleaning and sorting – things that I just didn’t have the energy for before we left.
Olivia doesn’t go back to school until next month, so I’m trying to find a different rhythm than we have through most of the year because I have one extra kid to keep entertained 4 days per week. She gets lunch at school, so we don’t have to worry about much more than throwing a snack and drink in her bag, and then feeding Alex bits and pieces of whatever we find in the fridge through the day. Having her home means I actually have to think about lunch and do something a bit more pulled together for the kids. Also, she’s just flat out bored right now. The last couple days have given us rain in the evenings, which means the driveway is a mud pit right now. Thankfully the kids have been avoiding it, but it also means they can’t ride their bikes, increasing the boredom… Sigh. I will admit, today I realized I’m more than happy that she is in school these days and that for four days per week we have a better chance of accomplishing work things.
I read a blog post last week that got me thinking about all this balance stuff. Basically the point was that we each need to find what works for us. For some people having a super organized home is what works for them. They have the time and energy to commit to organizing it in the first place, and then to maintaining it over time – because while organization does simplify life in many ways, it still takes regular maintenance.
It got me thinking about what my priorities are around the house. What do I need to have to feel sane, and what is less important? I realized something very valuable – I had been working, at least mentally, a bit too hard to be and do certain things that really just weren’t “me” or “us” if I was really honest with myself.”
I say “mentally” because in many cases I was having conversations with myself about what I “should” be doing or being or focusing my attention on, rather than looking at what really makes us work and what makes us happy as a family.
Let’s talk about the household “state of being” for a bit, because I think this is probably the biggest area for me.
Both Chris and I have parents that have tidy homes. Are they spotless. Nope. But they are tidy with comfortable, open spaces not filled with stuff. Yes, there are little, shall we call them “collections” around the house. Like the mish mash of odds and ends on the phone desk that both of our families seem to have. You know, pens, purses, paper clips, phone cradles and chargers, post it notes etc. For the most part though, it’s clean and tidy. Stuff gets picked up and put away.
How does that translate over to our home, having had that example? Well, I like a tidy house. It makes me feel peaceful. I am SO very grateful that Yonese helps keep our house tidy through the week because it’s a lot of work here. The windows are open every day, all day, and we can literally sweep several times per day and have piles. In hot climates, the outdoors are an extension of your home, so it’s natural that the outdoors come in. We also live in a small space, so when things are crazy, the space feels crazy and then we feel crazy.
I like to walk into my room and see the bed made. I don’t like walking on things. I like to look at the kids room when I walk by and see the floor. I like to look at their shelving unit and see the books with books and the toys with toys. I hate having stuff all over my counters, at least in the places I work in when preparing meals. Overall, I like having a tidy house. Looking at a messy house makes me feel stressed. Chris will tell you, often when he drives visitors to the airport I spend that time cleaning and getting our home back in order after what is usually a busy week of early mornings and late nights. And then, after I’m done madly doing dishes, washing floors, doing laundry and putting things right I sit and enjoy it for the 5 minutes I have before he arrives home or the kids come in from outside and undo everything. But those 5 minutes – bliss!
Saying all that though… I’ve realized in the last week that for this season in our lives I need to not worry so much about certain things, because that worry was actually causing more stress in our home.
We’ve recently been trying to have a lot of conversations with Olivia about taking responsibility for our choices, actions and stuff, and that being part of a family means we all work together to make things, well, work. That means we all do certain things to make our home more enjoyable to live in, to clean it etc. And, we don’t always like doing those things, but they need to be done, and since we all benefit, we all contribute. Some of the things that were stressing me out were the messes left by the kids. So, the solution is that now that Olivia is old enough, she gets to help clean up. Today she cleaned her room after her and Alex had been playing in there. And she did a great job. Along the way she’s learning things like how to know where the top of the sheet is by the size of the seam. She’s also learning that sometimes the “fun” choices lead to not fun clean up, like when you and your brother splash water all over the bathroom floor and you have to mop it up – two nights in a row.
I’ve decided that I’m going to chill out a bit about certain things. I’m going to admit that while I like the idea of having a fabulously organized home where everything is in labeled containers and on shelves lined with pretty paper, that’s just not us right now. Part of having a happy, organized home, is finding a system that everyone is willing to work with. If I’m barking at everyone all the time because they aren’t working with my system, then it’s not working. No one is happy. They feel nagged and I feel unappreciated. Finding a system that works for us is what makes everyone happy. And you know what? I’ve realized we’re actually doing pretty good. Do I have stuff on my counters? Yep, in some places. But I do regularly stop and take a few seconds to sort and straighten and move anything out that isn’t supposed to live there.
For the most part our things all have places to live. After we got back, as part of the unpacking process I sorted through most of my clothes and all of the kids clothes. We stocked up on a bunch of new stuff, so before putting it in on top of the old I sorted out things that didn’t fit, didn’t get worn, or had bad stains. I moved some things around in the kids room to make it work better for us and the phase we’re in, and I cleaned some things out of my linen closet that we don’t need. It all feels good and it helps us function better. And, I try to do things like that at least once a year, especially if we’ll be or have been traveling because we’ve probably stocked up on certain things. If I know what’s there, I know what we need or don’t need.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that we will always have a “junk” drawer, which is really the place in our kitchen where we keep all the things that don’t really fit anywhere else. I actually planned a junk drawer into our kitchen layout. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the bathroom vanity cupboard has needed to be cleaned out for about two years now. I know what’s in it, it just needs some organizing love. And, maybe I’ll get to it sometime, and maybe I won’t. I’m okay with the fact that there will be times where our room gets stashes that need to be cleaned out, and that we probably have sippy cups hiding under the furniture. It’s not worth stressing about anymore. This is who we are. I have to accept the fact that I live with 3 other people, two of which can barely or can’t even wipe their own butts. I have to be reasonable in my expectations of what those little people can do, whether it’s making the mess or cleaning it up. When they get older, they can be more active not only in the butt wiping department, but also in the cleaning up department.
Yes, I’m very much looking forward to moving to a new house when the mission relocates because it will be a house that we’ve designed from top to bottom, and that I’ll have a very hands on relationship with. I’ll be able to build in and designate storage for everything, and then as we move – actually put things in those places so we just start with them being there. That’ll be nice, but it’s also a ways away. For now, I’m going to be happy with what we have, and enjoy it more along with the people I get to do this crazy life with, and worry less about whether there are wet foot prints on a freshly mopped floor.